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Eternal format wars


Universal continued its somewhat tepid support of HD DVD today by announcing two new titles for release on April 24th: Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the Eddie Murphy masterpiece The Nutty Professor. Given how much I enjoyed the former, I’ll definitely be picking up its high definition incarnation; as for the latter, well, let’s just say my life has already been “enriched” by that particular title, and it’s not an experience I feel compelled to repeat. Slightly more encouraging is the appearance of several highly regarded titles on the HD DVD Promotion Group’s Release List, including E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Psycho and The Shining. Obviously, without release dates, this can’t be taken as an official announcement, but it does imply that there is at least an intention to release these films on HD DVD at some point in the future.


In other news, I pre-ordered the upcoming Blu-ray release of Casino Royale (due out on March 13th). This will likely be my first ever Sony Blu-ray disc, given that they own very little worth bothering about (yes, believe it or not I’ll be passing on Little Man and Click), and, given the reports I’ve been hearing, I’m not expecting great things. Then again, they’re apparently going to switch from MPEG2 to MPEG4 AVC for this title, which means that it will hopefully not be the compression nightmare that many of their earlier titles were. I’ve also taken out a one-month subscription to LoveFilm, which means I will be able to rent the small number of region-free Blu-ray discs released in the UK in order to get a feel of what the format has to offer in terms of image quality. Obviously, this discounts all Fox titles, which are coded for Region B, as well as Sony’s releases of recent films (their policy is to make catalogue titles region-free).

Posted: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 9:45 PM | Comments: 11 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

Even more HD DVD captures







Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is another really nice-looking disc: very smooth, rich colours, great compression, only a few minor signs of noise reduction slightly marring it. Okay, so it isn’t razor-sharp in the way that Serenity is, but few films are, and the smooth appearance is very appropriate for this film noir homage.

PS. Another problem with these captures that I’ve begun to notice is that, in addition to adding some softness that shouldn’t be there, colour banding is also appearing.

Posted: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 8:46 PM
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

Yet more HD DVD captures







These shots are from Corpse Bride, which has emerged as one of the strongest-looking high definition discs. As before, these screen captures simply don’t do the transfer justice, and, until I can get to the bottom of this softening that seems to be going on, I’m going to have to warn against taking these as being indicative of the actual quality of HD DVD.

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 6:34 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Animation | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

More HD DVD screen captures







These are from Unleashed. It’s not quite as good-looking as Serenity (a little softer and some very mild signs of temporal noise reduction), but still an absolute beauty to behold - especially when you consider that the file for the film itself, including audio, is a mere 12.8 GB. It’s because of transfers like this that I struggle to believe the mantra espoused by many Blu-ray supporters that 30 GB is not enough. This film comes on a single-layer (15 GB) HD DVD/DVD combo disc and looks amazing!

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 5:22 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

Warner saves Europe


Source: AV Science Forum

DVDRama has just unveiled a rather impressive-looking line-up of titles to be released on HD DVD throughout this year in France. As a nice bonus to HD DVD-only people, this includes titles distributed by Blu-ray studios in the US but owned by Warner in Europe, including The Prestige and The Island. Even more interestingly, though, a roster of titles featuring the In-Movie Experience are listed here as HD DVD exclusives (in other words, not coming to Blu-ray). The reason for this is clear: the Blu-ray camp has yet to get their interactive BD-Java technology working properly, and many of the first generation players will probably never be able to fully support it. As a result, Warner has been holding back many IME HD DVDs in the US to keep the playing field level, as it were. Such generous but moronic ideals are clearly not operating in Europe, though, with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire already available to buy in the UK. Whatever you think of the films in question, the titles with the “HD DVD only” tag attached should warm the cockles of any HD DVD supporter’s heart:

April 25

  • The Island


  • The Prestige


  • The Prestige
  • Natural Born Killers
  • The Matrix (IME) (HD DVD only)


  • Mad Max 2
  • The Matrix Reloaded (IME) (HD DVD only)


  • The Goonies
  • The Matrix Revolutions (IME) (HD DVD only)
  • Letters from Iwo Jima


  • L.A. Confidential
  • Blade Runner
  • Poltergeist
  • 300 (IME) (HD DVD only)
  • Blood Diamond (HD DVD only)
  • Zodiac


  • Dirty Harry
  • The Enforcer
  • Sudden Impact
  • Magnum force
  • The Dead Pool
  • Music and Lyrics
  • The Reaping


  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (IME) (HD DVD only)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (IME) (HD DVD only)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (IME) (HD DVD only)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (IME) (HD DVD only)


  • 2001 A Space Odyssey
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Eyes Wide Shut
  • Ocean’s eleven (1960)
  • Ocean’s eleven (2001)
  • Ocean’s twelve
  • The Shining
  • The Wizard of Oz

Note: the full list actually also includes several titles already available in the US, which explains why the first few months, as presented here, appear to be so sparse.

Sign me up for The Matrix (thank god I don’t have to buy it in a box set with the shoddy sequels), Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut, and possibly a couple of others depending on my finances and what titles are being released by other studios at around the same time.

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 4:05 PM | Comments: 4 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

HD DVD screen captures

Ha! They told me it couldn’t be done. In fact, the studios did everything in their power to make things impossible, but the old adage applies: if it can be encrypted, it can be decrypted. The images below are from the UK version of Serenity, and, as far as I can tell, there is no downscaling going on, although I’m still not 100% certain, as there is a certain sheen of softness to these images that isn’t present when watching them on a TV. (It may be that the software decoding of PowerDVD isn’t as effective as it could be.) Anyway, click the thumbnails below for larger versions.







Obtaining these screen captures is a rather long and tedious process that I won’t go into here for fear of swarms of Hollywood dragoons descending on me, but, suffice to say, it would appear that the impossible is in fact possible.

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 10:18 AM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

The best-looking HD title?


King Kong is considered by many people to be the best-looking high definition disc out there. I’ve not viewed it myself, but, based on these screenshots, I think I can see why it’s so highly-regarded:

More at

PS. Judging by these shots, it is actually possible to get full 1920x1080 screen captures of HD DVD titles from a PC. The process apparently involves getting hold of the disc’s volume key by exploiting a loophole in WinDVD HD, then decrypting the disc, then running the decrypted files in PowerDVD 6.5. In other words, much harder than with a standard definition DVD, but definitely possible.

Posted: Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 10:51 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

DVD review: The Mephisto Waltz

There’s nothing particularly unique about The Mephisto Waltz that can’t be found in the countless other Rosemary’s Baby-inspired horror films from the same period. Then again, the book itself was unremarkable despite being an enjoyable pulpy read, so it’s difficult to feel too surprised that the film turned out to be equally pedestrian. It’s an enjoyable enough way to kill a couple of hours, though, especially on a cold winter’s night, and that inimitable air of 70s kitsch makes it considerably more appealing than most of its more recent ilk.

A forgotten horror gem or just another Rosemary’s Baby rip-off? I’ve reviewed the R2 Spanish release of The Mephisto Waltz, which bears the distinction of being the only film 20th Century Fox produced in 1970.

Posted: Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Reviews

Updated HD DVD image quality rankings


Lyris’ recent purchase of a 40” 1080p-capable display has caused me to re-evaluate a few titles. By and large, not much has changed, although Corpse Bride has emerged as the closest to being technically “perfect” (personally, I prefer the grainy aesthetic of Serenity, though).


  • Corpse Bride (Warner, USA)
  • Serenity (Universal, UK)
  • Serenity (Universal, USA)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Warner, UK)


  • The Bourne Supremacy (Universal, USA)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (Warner, USA)
  • Miami Vice (Universal, USA)
  • Unleashed (Universal, USA)
  • Casablanca (Warner, USA)
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Warner, UK)


  • Red Dragon (Universal, USA)
  • Constantine (Warner, USA)
  • Land of the Dead (Universal, USA)
  • V for Vendetta (Warner, USA)
  • The Machinist (Toshiba, Japan)
  • Sleepy Hollow (Paramount, USA)
  • Million Dollar Baby (Warner, USA)


  • Wolf Creek (The Weinstein Company, USA)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Universal, USA)
  • The Mummy Returns (Universal, USA)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner, USA)


  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Paramount, USA)
  • An American Werewolf in London (Universal, USA)
  • Brokeback Mountain (Universal, USA)
  • Basic Instinct (Studio Canal, France)

I’ll continue to post this list, with updates, at regular intervals (probably around once a month). Also, expect Blu-ray titles to begin to be added starting with the next major update.

Posted: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 8:25 PM
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

Ban this filth!


Two new HD DVDs entered the house today: Lyris picked up a copy of the deliriously awful The Mummy Returns, while I received a review copy of Brokeback Mountain, the movie once referred to by my charming grandfather (who struggles with the concept of multi-racial relationships, let alone same-sex ones) as “the poofter cowboy film”. Unfortunately, neither are particularly impressive examples of the format: both look somewhat soft and slightly edge enhanced, with Brokeback Mountain faring the worst, especially in the first half (the detail levels seem to improve at around the half-way point). Indeed, it’s probably the only high definition title I’ve seen so far where at times I found myself thinking “This almost looks like a really good standard definition DVD.”

But what of the film itself? It garnered three Oscars, including Best Director, and a plethora of adulation. As is so often the case, the answer is good, but not as good as the praise would lead you to believe. However, first and foremost I think something should be cleared up: in this so-called “gay cowboy movie”, neither one of the two main characters is gay, and they herd sheep, not cows. However, “bisexual sheepboy movie” doesn’t have quite the same zing to it, so I can see why the less factually correct pseudonym became the generally accepted one. When it was initially released, many viewers and critics remarked, with both surprise and admiration, that, despite featuring a relationship between two men, this wasn’t a “gay” movie. I think I know what they mean: it doesn’t treat the gender of the pair as particularly remarkable (although that’s not to say that the social stigma attached to it is never an issue). “It could just as well have been a man and a woman,” many people said. And that, for me, is both the film’s strength and its weakness. Yes, it’s impressive to see a Hollywood movie treat this sort of subject matter with respect, but at the same time, make one of the two cowboys a woman and I strongly doubt that it would have attracted nearly as much attention (although the scene in which they beat each other up might have raised some eyebrows). This is a rather conventional tale of forbidden love, and the characters, despite offering some insight into the personas they construct for themselves in order to fit into a conservative society, are really not massively interesting. It’s all quite nicely shot and competently acted, but I don’t see this as a masterpiece by any means; on the contrary, it has a lot in common with those daytime made-for-TV “dramedies” (to borrow a word I detest) that Channel 5 shows most afternoons.

Posted: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 7:00 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | HD DVD

Slaughter Hotel

Slaughter Hotel

Italy: Fernando Di Leo, 1971

A hooded assassin armed with an axe is trawling the corridors of a mental asylum for troubled (not to mention oversexed) women located somewhere in the countryside. It’s the sort of asylum that’s run by the shifty-eyed Klaus Kinski and stocked will all manner of medieval weaponry. The sort of asylum where the curvaceous inmates sleep in the nude with their bedroom doors wide open and the lights on full blast - in other words, the usual kind. Who could it be? (Hint: it’s not Klaus Kinski.)

There are some interesting colour-tinted opening titles which introduce the key cast members. These remind me somewhat od the opening titles for Zimmer 13, and manage to be quite atmospheric, suggesting that the film which follows them will be of a similar standard. Unfortunately, Slaughter Hotel turns out to be a flatly shot and annoyingly ludicrous affair, combining elements of the giallo with soft-core (and even, at times, borderline hard-core) pornography, neither to good effect. With its theme of insanity and its attempts to marry the modernism of the giallo with a gothic aesthetic, it recalls Emilio Miraglia’s considerably more effective (although still deeply flawed) The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, but here any attempts to develop an engaging plot fail miserably and are jettisoned in favour of scene after scene of sex and/or bloodletting.

Slaughter Hotel

What’s surprising is that all of this could have been pretty entertaining in a “so bad it’s good way”, but the film kills any potential for this by moving at a snail’s pace and generally dragging out each scene well after its limited potential has been exhausted. There’s nothing particularly appealing about an ineptly-staged lesbian scene between two uncomfortable-looking actresses going on for minute after minute. The characters themselves are not particularly interesting, although the various “cures” suggested for the inmates’ “ailments” should raise an eyebrow or two - Rosalba Neri’s character, committed, it would seem, because she likes having sex, is immediately ordered to take a shower, an act which has the effect of causing her to writhe about orgasmically and rub herself against the walls (this particular act is set to some amusingly sinister music courtesy of Silvano Spadaccino, whose score is, for the most part, dull and uninteresting).

This is ultimately the sort of giallo that makes Strip Nude For Your Killer look well-made and intelligently scripted. As a murder mystery it fails to work, and as a slice of cult sleaze it’s hardly any more effective. I’m just slightly surprised that such a sexually explicit giallo was made as early as 1971 - I’d previously assumed that this particular trend didn’t emerge until closer to the middle of the decade. In the end, it’s all very silly but also rather boring. Deep Red this ain’t. 2/10

Posted: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 12:48 AM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Gialli | Reviews

Footprints on the Moon

Italy: Luigi Bazzoni, 1975

Some films are so completely nutty that the only way of understanding just how nutty they are is to see them for yourself. This is certainly the case with Footprints on the Moon, which also goes by the names of Primal Impulse or just Footprints (its original Italian title is Le Orme, which translates as “the tracks”, i.e. footprints). This 1975 piece was made by Luigi Bazzoni and his regular cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who in 1971 had collaborated on a giallo called The Fifth Cord, which was very impressive to look at but rather inremarkable in the script department. Footprints on the Moon is generally referred to as Bazzoni’s “other giallo”, but in truth I think that label is somewhat tenuous. The word “giallo” conjures up different things for different people, but I think it’s fairly self-evident that anyone expecting the usual black-gloved serial killer affair, as popularised by Dario Argento, will be slightly disappointed by this film. Likewise, even those whose definition of the giallo is broader will probably find the content of the film a bit surprising. The nearest point of comparison I can think of is The Perfume of the Lady in Black, another Italian thriller from the same period which dealt with the similar subject matter of a woman whose sanity is crumbling.

Florinda Bolkan (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) stars as Alice, a translator being haunted by nightmares of a rather creepy black and white sci-fi film starring Klaus Kinski as the sinister Blackmann. She believes she remembers seeing the film once, but the dreams are incredibly vivid and seem almost real. Following one of these dreams, Alice awakens to discover that she has forgotten the events of the past three days. Initially led to believe that she has actually been asleep for this duration of time, she becomes suspicious when various clues lead her to the Turkish island of Garma, where various locals clearly remember her having visited only a few days ago - an event of which Alice has no recollection. Even more strangely, they all address her as Nicole.

Footprints on the Moon is considerably more avant-garde than its predecessor. While The Fifth Cord was essentially the work of an experimental crew saddled with a conventional script, this one makes absolutely no attempt to be “normal”. Right from the start something seems to be off: there is a sense of distance and artificiality, conveyed by the careful camerawork and set dressing. The washed-out pan and scan transfer of my copy makes it difficult to appreciate the cinematography, but even so Bazzoni and Storaro’s fascinating use of angles and geometric architecture is readily evident. Likewise, there use of primary colours recalls their work on The Fifth Cord, with night scenes where the entire screen is bathed in blue and a slow motion climax with pumped contrasts and heavy colour tinting. As befits a film in which the protagonist’s mental faculties are being called into question, we’re never quite sure whether what we’re seeing or hearing is real or all in her head.

There’s a sense at times that the imagery is just a little too crazy to be entirely successful: the use of the aforementioned sci-fi movie is, to an extent, explained at the end, but it doesn’t exactly fit the tone of the rest of the film, and much of it tends to be a little on the cheesy side. I’m also not sure I’d call the film as good as The Fifth Cord - its narrative is certainly considerably more imaginative, but it does at times overstep the mark and end up simply being weird for the sake of weirdness. In balance, The Fifth Cord was more successful because it was less ambitious in its intentions. Still, Footprints on the Moon is a unique, atmospheric, and visually arresting film that really needs a legitimate DVD release so that these qualities can be fully appreciated. 8/10

Posted: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 5:19 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema | Gialli | Reviews

Universal pledges 100 HD DVDs in 2007; still says no to Blu-ray


Source: High-Def Digest

After much fretting by HD DVD supporters, Universal have finally made an announcement regarding their plans for the format. Once again they have reiterated that they have no plans to support Blu-ray, and indeed they have promised an aggressive slate of 100 new titles for 2007, all of which will, naturally, be HD DVD exclusives.

Once again, no release dates are given, so it’s anyone’s guess whether we’ll see anything before April, but the studio did let slip on some of the titles we can expect to see:

Among the additional new titles to be released in 2007 are the Oscar-nominated Children of Men, the critically acclaimed epic drama The Good Shepherd, and the high-octane Smokin’ Aces. Also on deck for release this year are such highly-anticipated catalog favorites as Bruce Almighty, The Bourne Identity, Meet The Fockers, American Pie, Inside Man, Pride & Prejudice, The Big Lebowski, Liar Liar, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Brazil, Erin Brockovich, Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Slap Shot and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Universal also stated that more than 90% of these releases will be HD DVD/DVD combos - a move guaranteed to invoke anger and gratitude in equal measure.

Posted: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 11:48 AM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something Blu


Well, that’s it: the Playstation 3 is on its way. Lyris found one online from a US supplier at a price that, all things considered, seemed too good to refuse - especially given that, Sony being Sony and clamping down on exporter with an iron fist, it was a miracle that we found a US store that would ship one to the UK at all (and I’m not going to link to the store or even name them, because I know for a fact that Sony would do a Lik-Sang on their asses if they found out). The cute little rhyme I used for the title of this post is depressingly appropriate: I’m going to need to beg my parents to lend me some money when the bill comes in. As I’ve said before, hopefully I’ll have a job before too long and can afford to pay it off. I’m also selling a bunch of old DVDs on eBay, which I’m hoping will at least pay for the inevitable customs charge.

Oh, and because there’s not much point in owning a Crapstation and having nothing to play on it (what, you think I’d buy it for its looks?), I went over to DVD Pacific and ordered a few discs: Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut, Enemy of the State and The Descent. Unfortunately, these are all MPEG2 titles, and Kingdom of Heaven has had all of its extras stripped out so that the whole film could fit on to a single BD50 using that bloated relic of a codec, so I doubt that these will be the finest examples of the format. We all have to start somewhere, though, and I’d personally rather pick up films I like rather than buy discs featuring decent transfers but crap films (something that both formats apparently have more than their fair share of).

The discs and the Crapstation should both be arriving in about a week’s time, so I’ll have the full scoop for you soon. In the meantime, if anyone is feeling unnaturally altruistic, massive cash donations would be much appreciated.

Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 8:45 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

The Razzies are in!

Forget the Oscars - the nominations for the real movie awards ceremony are in. A whole host of unfortunates are in line for these most esteemed of all awards this year, with an impressive seven Razzies going to both Basic Instrinct 2 and Little Man. Not to be outdone, Uwe Boll’s meisterwerk Bloodrayne netted six nominations, while the remake of The Wicker Man and Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause are tied with five each (the latter in the prestigious Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment category).

I wonder if anyone will show up to personally collect their trophies? Halle Berry graciously appeared in person to accept the Worst Actress award for Catwoman in 2005 (as did Paul Verhoeven in 1996 for Showgirls, among a handful of others), so, for all we know, this could be the start of a trend.

Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 5:24 PM
Categories: Cinema

Step away from the bike!

Many thanks must go to Graham for drawing attention to this one: a montage of the most unintentionally funny moments from the cringe-inducingly poor-looking remake of The Wicker Man. Coming soon to HD DVD and Blu-ray: Nicolas Cage steals a bicycle, punches and delivers karate kicks to various women, steals small childrens’ masks, disguises himself as a grizzly bear, and has a swarm of bees poured over his head, all the while screaming “Not the bees! Not the bees! Oh no, my eyes! My eeeeeeeeyeeeeeees!”

Yes, I think I’ve seen all I need to see of this film. It’s fairly clear they dumped the wrong one under the M3.

Update, January 25, 2007 04:28 PM: There’s another, even longer and even funnier, montage here.

Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 4:16 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD

A pawn to the industry

Playstation 3

If you’ve been keeping track of the whole HD format war business, you probably haven’t failed to notice that the Blu-ray studios - Sony, Fox (including MGM), Disney and Lions Gate - announced a crap-load of titles for their format of choice at this year’s CES. The HD DVD camp - Universal, Bandai, The Weinstein Company and the neutral Warner and Paramount - pledged to release another 300 titles before the end of the year, but so far haven’t given much of an inkling as to what we can expect (beyond the obvious: Harry Potter, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings and a bunch of day-and-date titles). Making matters doubly worse has been Universal’s almost complete silence on all things software. Many people suggested that Universal were getting cold feet and might possibly be gearing up to go format-neutral. I can confirm that Universal has no plans to support Blu-ray - otherwise, the war might as well be over. However, I can’t exactly say I’m impressed by the fact that Universal don’t seem to be releasing any more HD DVDs until April.

In the meantime, the boys in Blu are cranking out discs like there’s no tomorrow (which, for them, there probably isn’t if their format tanks). In addition to juggernauts like Casino Royale and Cars now having official release dates, numerous catalogue titles from the various studios (barring Sony, who own very little worth purchasing) are looking increasingly appealing. Their agenda, it seems, is to bully people into buying into the format through sheer weight of numbers… and it seems to be working. Originally, when I bought an HD DVD player, I was determined to hunker down and remain on one side until it either won or was decimated by the competition. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon. A glance at eProductWars will show you that the two formats are essentially on equal footing. They trade blows, and every few days the balance tips in favour of one or the other, and, as such, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that either format will be going anywhere in the near future. We’re simply going to have to accept that both will co-exist for some time to come. And, as much as I don’t want to give Sony a penny, I am, when all said and done, a film fan, and I’m no longer content to, as Lyris puts it, cut off my nose to spite my face.

In a couple of months’ time (when I will hopefully have some form of income to support my plans), I intend to pick up a 20 GB Playstation 3 from the US. It pains me to say it, but this is a far more cost-effective solution than waiting for a stand-alone combo player that properly supports both formats to become available, and in any event I can console myself (pun unintended, I assure you) with the knowledge that Sony loses nearly $250 every time they sell a PS3 - money that they hope to regain via game sales, which they certainly won’t be getting from me. For betraying my principles, I will have access to a much wider array of titles: around 15 available and announced Blu-ray exclusives appeal to me, including one of my favourite films, Hannibal, and two of the best films in recent years, Casino Royale and The Descent. Naturally, for titles available on both formats, I will continue to buy the HD DVD versions. However, I’m well on the road to becoming format neutral. Expect me to be putting the image quality of some Blu-ray titles under the microscope in the not too distant future.

Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 11:26 AM | Comments: 8 (view)
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | Games | HD DVD

The year’s most prestigious popularity contest

Put on your best frock: the nominations for the 2007 Academy Awards are in. As usual, I’ve seen virtually none of the films in the list, including none of those in the Best Picture, Acting, and Directing categories. Of the ones that I have seen, I don’t think there can be any doubt that Cars deserves the Animated Feature Film award, while the nomination of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan for - wait for it - Writing (Adapted Screenplay) only serves to make me wonder if the people who put these lists together actually understand the concept of writing (for those who don’t know, Borat, although based on a general outline, is largely comprised of improvised, unscripted encounters with real people). Meanwhile, the fact that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest can now claim four nominations to its name simply serves to highlight something I pointed out last year: not all Oscars are created equal, but it seems absolutely ridiculous that this dumb and overlong popcorn flick can actually claim to have received more nominations than something like, say, Gangs of New York (2002), whose nominations were in categories that actually matter, like Best Picture and Best Director.

Of the films listed, the one that has racked up the largest number of nominations is Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, with an impressive six categories to its name. I’ve not seen the film yet, but I really want to - the stills I’ve seen look absolutely amazing. Warner owns the rights in the US, so I’m going to wait patiently in the hope that it sees an HD DVD release before the year is out.

Posted: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 6:49 PM | Comments: 3 (view)
Categories: Cinema

La Rue Mulholland?


I’ve cancelled my pre-order for the upcoming French HD DVD release of Mulholland Dr. Why? Well, DVDFr and DVDRama are both stating that the release will come with French subtitles only, which strongly suggests that they will be forced when English audio is selected. With the one Studio Canal title I own, users are asked to select a ‘base’ language the first time they insert the disc, which determines which options are available to them. Selecting English restricts you to a choice of English audio with or without subtitles, locking out all the other language options, so it stands to reason that Studio Canal could, if they want, force French subtitles to “on” when playing Mulholland Dr. in English.

I don’t want to go without one of my favourite films in high definition, though, and it looks like I won’t have to: a post at the AV Science Forum suggests that Mulholland Dr., along with Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Deer Hunter and Ran, will be coming to HD DVD in the UK in March, courtesy of Optimum. Presumably this will coincide with the standard definition Special Edition being released on March 12th - although, given Optimum and Studio Canal’s HD track record so far, I don’t expect that we can count on any of the extras being ported over.

Posted: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 2:41 PM | Comments: 1 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD

The iguana with the tongue of VHS noise


My copies of The Mephisto Waltz and The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire arrived from Xploited Cinema this morning. The Mephisto Waltz is actually the Spanish release of the film, rather than the French version I’d assumed it to be, but it makes no difference, given that the disc itself features English audio, menus and subtitles, in addition to a variety of other languages. A quick glance at the transfer suggests that it’s pretty good: like many of Fox’s recent releases, it’s soft and a little noise reduced, but actually fairly attractive overall, and, needless to say, a massive improvement on my VHS dupe.

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire, meanwhile, is a big disappointment, partly because the image quality is very poor (it’s in widescreen, but I suspect that the source is a VHS tape), but mainly because it’s a very weak giallo. This is actually the first Riccardo Freda film that I’ve seen, and I gather that his standard is usually somewhat better than this; the fact that he signed the film under the pseudonym of “Willy Pareto” suggests that he didn’t regard it particularly highly either. Even through the grime and haze of the poor transfer, it’s fairly easy to see that the visuals aren’t all that hot, while the plot itself, not to mention the characters, fail to be even remotely engaging. It lacks a strong protagonist, while the killer’s identity is a non-event and his/her motive non-existent, and the somewhat unusual Dublin location is never really exploited to its full potential. This is definitely close to the bottom of the barrel, as far as I’m concerned, although you might get a kick or two out of lines like “Well now, me fleet-footed filly, are we going to have it off in the bushes or on the bike?”

Posted: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 12:47 PM | Comments: 2 (view)
Categories: Cinema | DVD | Gialli

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